Senate Passes Amendment for One-Time Audit of Fed

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"This amendment begins the process of lifting the veil of secrecy. . ."

The Senate adopted an amendment Tuesday to the financial-overhaul bill that would boost transparency of the Federal Reserve's emergency lending actions during the financial crisis.

Lawmakers voted 960 to incorporate the modified amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who scaled back his original language last week to overcome White House objections.

"This amendment begins the process of lifting the veil of secrecy of perhaps the most powerful federal agency," Mr. Sanders said at a news conference after the vote. Once the audit is completed, Mr. Sanders said he hopes it will unveil so many "back-room deals" that people will push for even more disclosure.

Directly after the Sanders amendment vote, the Senate rejected, 62-37, an amendment by Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) that contained Mr. Sanders' original language. The Vitter measure went further than the modified Mr. Sanders measure in the audit powers given to the federal government, including allowing for ongoing audits. The new Sanders amendment, for instance, would explicitly bar the Government Accountability Office from auditing day-to-day discount window operations and interest-rate decisions, while the Vitter language didn't.

"It really can't be called a complete audit," if it doesn't look at monetary policy decisions, Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) said of Mr. Sanders' amendment, urging colleagues to vote for Mr. Vitter's measure as well.

The Vermont senator said he'll do all in his power to ensure the final bill has the "strongest possible language" and won't be watered down further once it's reconciled with the House version.

The measure has strong support on the Republican side of the aisle. Dealing with Fannie and Freddie is the only way financial legislation can "really end 'too big to fail,'" said Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Senate GOP leader.

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